After nearly a yearlong silence, Pope Francis has officially addressed allegations that he knew about the sexually abusive Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and lifted sanctions that were imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI.
In an 11-page letter released in August of last year, Archbishop Viganò, former Nuncio from the Vatican to Washington, D.C., alleged that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been sanctioned under Pope Benedict XVI only to have those sanctions removed by Pope Francis upon his ascendancy in 2013. Cardinal McCarrick had an alleged history of sexually abusing male seminarians and, according to Viganò, was ordered by Pope Benedict to refrain from saying Mass or public ministry.
Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., said flatly that Viganò "said the truth" in his letter, which was followed by several other high-ranking prelates testifying to Viganó's respectable character.
Shortly after the letter dropped, Pope Francis elected to remain silent and maintained that protocol until this past Tuesday when he told Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki that he "knew nothing" about Cardinal McCarrick's behavior and did not remember if Archbishop Viganò ever informed him about the sanctions.
"I have said it many times, I knew nothing, no idea," he said. "And when this guy (Vigano) said that he told me about it that day, that he came … I don’t remember if he told me about this. If it’s true or not. No idea!"
Pope Francis directly addressing the allegations stands in stark contrast to the statement he made in August of last year when he said he would not "say a word about this."
"Read the [Viganò] statement carefully yourselves and make your own judgment. I am not going to say a word about this," Pope Francis told journalists aboard the papal plane. You all have sufficient journalistic ability to draw conclusions. It is an act of trust. When a little time goes by, and you have drawn conclusions, perhaps I will speak about it, but I would like your professional maturity to do this work. It will do you all good, really."
As to why he chose to remain silent for so long, Pope Francis told Alazraki that he trusted journalists to find the truth, adding that his silence was a way of speaking.
"I kept quiet, why should I make it worse," Pope Francis said. "Let the journalists find out. And you found it, you found that whole world. It was a silence of trust towards you … And the result was good, it was better than if I had started to explain, to defend myself."
The Holy Father's denial of McCarrick's behavior and sanctions imposed upon him came on the very same day that the cardinal's former secretary, Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, released excerpts from private and confidential correspondence indicating that Cardinal McCarrick often flouted the sanctions that were imposed upon him by Benedict XVI.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Archbishop Viganò flatly accused Pope Francis of lying about his ignorance of McCarrick's behavior and the sanctions imposed upon him.
"What the Pope said about not knowing anything is a lie," the archbishop said. "He pretends not to remember what I told him about McCarrick, and he pretends that it wasn’t him who asked me about McCarrick in the first place."